Review | Amid a muddled quest for covid’s source, a crucial message

The problem is that for someone who knows about evolution, 96 percent identical is not very closely related. In fact, it’s really quite different. It means the genomes are different in more than 1,000 places, whereas if these other viruses really were tightly linked to SARS-CoV-2, we’d expect a handful. For comparison, they’re about as closely related as you are to a chimpanzee. Viruses accumulate changes more quickly than we do, but even so, the pandemic and this outbreak are clearly separated by years or decades of independent evolution outside a lab. The book does not mention this inconvenient fact, among many others.

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